In my last post, I hinted that to ramp up my marketing strategy for my books, I might get brave and start doing some TikToks. Well, I did. I’ve been at it for two solid months now and have done 35 posts. I wanted to share with you how this experiment is going so far and what I’ve learned.
I avoided using this app for a long time for a couple reasons: it seemed to be mostly for young people, and I knew it would be a big time-suck. My daughter and a friend of mine at work insisted that there was much more to it than teens lip-syncing songs and dancing, so I finally gave it a chance and put the app on my phone. It took a moment, but the algorithm discovered the stuff that entertains me. I was wrong about it just being for young people. I was right about it being a time-suck. It’s really easy to get trapped on that app and not even notice how much time is passing.
As for making my own content, that’s a whole different story. I have a couple friends who are doing tremendously well on TikTok, but they aren’t authors. They’re doing well because of the persona or message they're putting across.
What on earth would anyone want to see this middle-aged indie author doing or saying? Obviously, I’m on there to promote my books, but so are thousands of other writers. No one wants to see outright sales pitches, so I had to find my way of expressing myself. In addition to writing, I’m also an actress/singer with a huge love a musical theater. I decided to combine my passions and create content where I would sing showtunes that either go thematically with a book of mine or that reflect things that happen in an author’s life.
Honestly, I thought this gimmick would be cuter than it is, but it’s only getting a lukewarm response. This is actually my most viewed and liked one where I'm singing. I have one that only has eleven views (sigh) and most have less than ten likes. (Oh, and did I mention my book Songwriter Night won an award? Yay!)
My daughter told me I’d be more successful following the trends on the app, doing some lip-synching, and using trending sounds. That makes sense, and while I’ve done a couple of those, I feel like I’m just one of a million when I do them. It's fun but feels insincere.
I’m also still figuring out how to make these videos. I have a small house that doesn’t have a lot of great places to shoot anything with a good background. I get embarrassed to shoot these when other members of my family are home.
I don’t wear makeup regularly, but I have to put some on for these or I look like death warmed over. So, I try to shoot a couple at a time.
Editing them together is challenging and takes more time than I thought. Most of the effects don’t work unless you record directly onto the app. I’ve edited a couple longer videos on Canva and uploaded them. It’s taking an enormous amount of time to put these things together, and some of them are literally only a few seconds long.
The pro tip is that people should be putting content up at least 4-6 times PER DAY to grow a following. I’m lucky if I can do 4 a week. It’s honestly so much to do even the small amount of content I’ve created. I’m absolutely enjoying the challenge and happy with what I’ve done, but I can’t sustain this pace, not with a full-time job and other commitments. Making TikTok content has stolen away a lot of my writing time and attention to other forms of marketing. A month from now, I start directing a big musical that goes up in June. I will have zero free time on my hands for making silly videos of me singing or lip-synching.
And is it even working? Not yet. I’m still new on there, but in two months I’ve only gained 40 followers. I haven’t topped 250 views on a video. The likes are going up for each video, but the most I’ve gotten is 24. That was for one of the “trending” style ones that has nothing to do with my writing, and I think most of those people liking it were creepers. As far as I can tell, I haven’t sold any books due to these videos.
I’ve shared some as reels on Instagram, and it’s interesting how different the responses are to these videos from one app to the other. I can tell that my Instagram followers are more interested in my singing/personal ones than the TikTok community. Also, it’s very clear that short, punchy videos do so much better than long, talky ones no matter which app I use.
I’m not done with my experiment. I’m still at the start of it, and I’m curious to see where it will go. I’m not convinced, however, that this is ultimately the best way to spend my precious creative time. But hey, I am posting a lot more on there than here on this blog, so please come follow me. I’d love to know what your experiences are on TikTok, either as a consumer or a content creator. Leave a comment below.
It’s time once again for my annual wrap up of the year: what I’ve been doing creatively and what I’ve been reading. It feels like I just wrote this post for the end of 2020, and if you scroll back through my very inactive blog, it sure looks like I just wrote it. Nevertheless, a whole year has indeed gone by, one filled with ups and downs.
The year began on a big high as I figured out how to publish the sweet romantic Nashville inspired audiobook I’d worked on so hard with songwriter Caleb Dinger and a cast of talented Nashville actors. We chose to go through Findaway Voices, and that made Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance available on every audiobook platform, the biggies being GooglePlay, Apple Books, Chirp, Kobo, Audiobooks.com and Audible. Yes, you can even borrow it from your public library.
Caleb and I got to do an interview on Today in Nashville, a local daytime news show, with a song from the show sung by our leading actors Jack Forte and Caylin Maguire. We got some wonderful reviews, and it was all very exciting.
We even did a “Listening Dinner Theatre” event in the spring where people bought tickets to enjoy a nice meal while listening to the 3-hour story. It was a blast, and I loved watching people react to everything and sing along to the song at the end.
Next, I worked on releasing Songwriter Night in ebook and print. It took a little revising because the story had originally been written in script format. I did a guest blog post about that process for Stacy Juba’s Shortcuts for Writers. The book version got some lovely reviews as well.
Once that came out, I took some time trying to figure out what to write next. I started and stopped three different novels. I liked the ideas behind all of them, but I was struggling with what my next steps as an author should be. The women’s fiction novel I wrote in 2020, Attitude of Grace, has gotten a couple full requests from agents and one publisher, but it hasn’t passed through the gatekeepers yet. I feel like that book will eventually find a home, and I want to have some solid foundation on another novel in the same genre to follow it.
In the end, however, my heart urged me to continue the love stories I started with my Nashville songwriters. So, I wrote a sequel called Songwriter Showcase. It was a blast to write because I had the voices of the actors from the audiobook in my head, and I could hear how they would read the lines. I also mined through the collection of songs I’d written in my twenties and used several of them in the story.
I released Songwriter Showcase with little fanfare in October and haven’t had much time to do any marketing for it. I’m hoping to fix that once we get past the holidays. (If you’re interested in review copies of either book, please let me know.) I also hope to record some of the new songs that I wrote for this story. It is a tremendous amount of work to record a full cast, musical audiobook, and this story is almost twice as long as the last one. I’m still trying to figure out a way to do it that will work. I’m toying with the idea of recording a staged reading of it, but I haven’t run that by Caleb or my actors yet. I’ll definitely let y’all know what happens.
In the new year I plan to revisit these characters once again to adapt Songwriter Night so that we can perform it as a live stage show. After that, I think I will go back to one of the novels I deserted last spring.
All of that seems exciting creatively, but I'll confess that my sales for all my books have been especially low this year. Nothing is working, and I’ve considered hanging it all up multiple times. I’m going to have to explore new ways to get attention to these titles. I’ve been trying to avoid it, but a TikTok account may be in my near future.
The theater side of me got to wake up once again after a long, long 18 months. My husband and I were asked to be in an original musical written by composer Michael Kurek called Dear Miss Barrett back in June. We were very proud to be part of this world premiere performance here in Tennessee. Immediately after that show, we FINALLY started rehearsals for the long-awaited Mamma Mia. We performed in August at The Larry Keeton Theatre, and it was SO MUCH FUN! I have never had so much fun doing a show, and there were so many tears at the end.
The woman playing Rosie to my Tanya in Mamma Mia was slated to direct the Christmas show, and she asked me to assistant direct and choreograph Miracle in Bedford Falls (a musical based on the film It’s a Wonderful Life). That turned out to be another magical experience that again left me in tears on closing night (only one week ago as I write this). I loved the show so much, and the cast was so delightful.
I’m not entirely sure what my theater plans are for 2022 at this point, but I have my fingers crossed for more opportunities to direct and at least one chance to perform.
And now for my 2021 Books of the Year list.
According to my Goodreads Challenge, I read 39 books, and I have two more I should finish before the new year. Once again, my reading genres were all over the place. I can’t help it. I like stories of all kinds. My list is heavier on audiobooks because I listen during my long commutes. I read a little YA, romance, women's fiction, some thrillers, and a couple non-fiction works.
Biggest Surprise: Girls with No Names by Sandra Burdick. Like usual, my biggest surprise came from plucking a book out of a Bookbub sale notice. This historical novel about the condition of life for wayward girls in 1910 was fascinating. It’s a heart-wrenching tale, and it had me captured from beginning to end. I listened to the audiobook for this, and it was expertly read by 3 different actresses. I highly recommend it if you like historical fiction.
Best Self-Published or Small Press Book: Okay, I deserve a little slap on the wrist for this, but I didn’t read many self-published or small press books this year. I know. As an indie, I should be ashamed. I will do better next year. The one I enjoyed the most was A36 by Teri Polen. It’s a YA science fiction/dystopian novel about a society that farms genetic codes from people and sells them. It’s very exciting with great fight scenes and a cast of characters that is multi-cultural and inclusive of LGBT characters. I am definitely looking forward to the sequel.
Best Audiobook: This is hard. I’ve listened to so many good audiobooks this year. I’m going with Stephen King’s Billy Summers. I always love a good King novel, and I read 3 of them this year. The narration in this is fantastic, and the story zips along. It is not a horror novel at all but more of a suspense story. It’s interesting caring so much for a character who is also a hired assassin. If you love the TV show Barry, you will love this book.
Best Large Press Book: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. This book is a prequel to The Hunger Games series and the origin story of President Snow. I know that a lot of people didn’t like it as much as I did, but I found it riveting. I also love when Santino Fontana narrates books. He’s amazing. I just wish he’d sung the songs instead of reciting them.
Best Book of the Year: The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah. I suppose one of these years my favorite book won’t be historical fiction, but that genre always seems to score highest with me. It’s not often an audiobook has me weeping all the way to and from work while I drive. This one did it. This story about a family striving to survive the Great Depression tore my heart out and left it raw. Beautifully written and so epic. I can’t recommend it enough.
Have you read or listened to any of these books? What did you think? What were your favorite books of the year? I’d love to hear from you, so leave a comment. And, of course, if you’re looking for something fun to read to start off 2022, pop around my website and see if any of my books appeal to you.
Happy New Year! Let’s hope it’s a happier, healthier one!
My last post was six months ago, and if you read it you know I was going through a struggle over how or if I should proceed with my writing. Well, that battle continues to rage in me, but my determination to create seems to keep winning. After three starts on full length novels, I decided that I really wanted to continue the story of my Nashville songwriters and wrote a sequel to Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance.
This book, Songwriter Showcase, wound up being almost twice as long as the first story, although the main plot still takes place in one evening.
My plan is to release the book on November 9th, and it is available for pre-order on Kindle now!
Here is the cover for the new book! Do you like it?
What's it about?
Emotions run high and jealousy reigns when the members of songwriter group night enter a talent competition against each other.
It’s been a couple months since Trish attended her first songwriter night and started her relationship with Lyle. Things have been going nicely for them but haven’t been quite as smooth for Odetta and Neil. These new relationships are put to the test when all four of them enter a big songwriting competition where the finalists will perform in a showcase in front of a panel of judges. The winner will get an offer of agent representation and a possible recording deal. Now they’re all in competition, trying to figure out how to support each other while still wanting to win.
It doesn’t help that both Lyle and Neil feel slighted because Trish and Odetta are singing songs they’ve written about former relationships. There’s also a striking young woman named Carly who could definitely snag the prize away from any of them.
Oh, and one more problem. Aiden Bronson is one of the judges.
Is the love between Trish and Lyle or Odetta and Neil strong enough to survive this tense night? No matter the outcome?
It's now my intention to do a series of these Nashville Songwriter Romance novellas, exploring the romantic and platonic relationships between the main characters from the original story and adding some new characters as it goes along.
Each book will continue to feature song lyrics, but at this point I'm not planning to do full cast audiobooks for the sequels. I would like at some point to record the songs, however. So, stay tuned for that.
If you haven't read Songwriter Night: A Musical Romance, I'm keeping the price at 99c for the ebook for now, and the audiobook is still at a low $5.25 at most audiobook retailers. It's gotten great reviews, and people seem to really enjoy it. I'm crossing my fingers for the possibility of putting it on stage as a live musical sometime next year.
What am I working on next?
I wrote Songwriter Showcase on weekends between rehearsals for two back-to-back musical productions this past summer. We just finished up Mamma Mia (at long last) two weeks ago. So sad that it's over, but so happy we finally got to do the show!
I'm about to go into rehearsals for a Christmas show that I'm choreographing and assistant directing. That'll keep me pretty busy through the remainder of the year.
Next up for Lyle, Trish and the gang will be Songwriter Session, but I need a break from them for a moment while I concentrate on marketing the existing titles. I'm planning to go back to one of the women's fiction novels that I started during the spring and see if I can make some progress on it. I'm still sending my other women's fiction novel Attitude of Grace to agents and publishers for consideration. It's a long, slow, painful process, but I have hope that this book about rediscovering yourself in mid-life will find its place in the world.
I'd love to hear from you! Comment to tell me what you think of the new book cover. What have you been reading lately? I'm always happy to answer any questions you may have. All the best to you!
I haven’t done a blog post yet this year. I’ve thought of a couple ideas. I even wrote a short one a couple weeks back about my current reading habits, but then I thought it was pointless and didn’t post it. And that’s kind of the thing with me right now, I’m second guessing my ideas. I’m second guessing everything that I write and if anyone would be at all interested in reading it, whether it’s a blog post, a tweet, a Facebook update, or a novel.
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.